The New York Islanders have been linked with almost any piece of vacant real estate in New York. Some may have some truth, while others may not. But one thing is clear, the Isles are pressing their advantage.
It’s hard to feel empowerment when you’re often at the bottom end of the league for so long. When you’re at the bottom of the food chain it’s hard to see yourself getting back to the top.
But over the last four years, the Isles find them on the ascension. With playoff hockey in three of the past four season. A playoff series victory under their belt, and now with ownership willing to spend to the allowable limit, the Isles are starting to play the part of a championship-caliber team.
The franchise won’t settle for mediocrity. It knows the caliber of its product and it demands to be serviced accordingly.
The Barclays Deal
Just last season the New York Islanders left Long Island for what was thought to be the greener pastures of Brooklyn. The team was moving to a brand new stadium; the Barclays Center. This new stadium was not built for hockey per-see, but it was going to be able to accommodate the Isles.
The main draw for the Isles was a new avant-garde business plan, where the Barclays Center would take care of the business side of the franchise. Such as marketing, ticket sales and general operational functions of the venue. By forfeiting this side of the franchise over to the Barclays Center the New York Islanders would receive a yearly stipend from the Barclays Center rumored to be $50 million per year, no matter the attendance levels.
But while the Isles aren’t responsible for ticket sales, they can’t be happy with the leagues 3rd lowest attendance record at 13,626 per home game according to ESPN. Only Arizona and Carolina had worse attendance last season.
Low attendance does not build a brand. It also doesn’t fit with a winners mentality. The Islanders are a team on the rise and as such, they should have the support to match it. The Isles should have a sold out Barclays Center every night. The fact that they sell out 86% on average of the second-smallest venue in the league just isn’t good enough. Only Winnipeg’s MTS Center is smaller.
Having stories out there that the Isles are looking for a new place to play lights a fire under the Barclays Center’s to get their operations going and match the Islanders ambition. The Isles are keeping their end of the deal by icing a competitive team, the Barclays needs to hold up it’s end of the bargain.
Short Term vs. Long Term
Leaking stories that the franchise is shopping around for a new home can of course backfire. We’ve already laid out the fact that these stories do not lend themselves to stability.
The Isles need to cater to a fanbase and start building a loyal following. Twenty-two miles may not seem like a long distance from its previous home, but the Isles find themselves in a different part of the city. They have to make sure to keep what they once had, and bring in some new blood.
What these stories should reveal is that the New York Islanders ownership is forward thinking. Thinking about its next move.
With a capacity of 15,765, the Isles would only jump four spots on the attendance charts with sold out crowds every night. The New York Islanders and its ownership want better and deserve better.
Nearing the end of the season, attendance started to trend upwards. Over the last ten home games, the Islanders averaged an attendance of 14,254. An encouraging trend, but one that spells out a possible short stay for the Isles.
Should they continue this level of success they will surely outgrow the Barclays Center, quickly. A purpose built arena that could potentially out match the Barclays in capacity would be the catalyst for the Isles to move.
At this point, the Barclays Center seems like a stepping stone for the Isles into bigger and better things. The Islanders are pressing their advantage. They have a successful product, with high aspirations and they want a home that can meet them.